Jim, Merrissa and I ended the week on a high with an ascent of Liathach over on the mainland. On Friday night we braved wild weather just to drive the 70 miles and then a 10 minute walk to the Ling Hut in the dark and driving rain. Next morning little seemed to have changed by 8am but the forecast came right just before 9.
Archive photo of the SMC Ling hut with Liathach behind; our route gained the crest at the right edge and traversed to the obvious high point called Spidean a’ Choire Leith (1055m)
The ascent is quite possibly the fiercest anywhere in the UK, rising from 30m above sea-level to 833m in little over a kilometre.We put crampons on at about 700m and it was obvious our descent was going to be concentrated.
Along the crest the snow was immaculate with just a small amount of give in a uniform covering.
Roped together we wandered for the next hour in an almost dream-like manner with amazing light on the views all around.
From the summit the ridge still stretched away into the distance but a lack of time and light meant we reluctantly had to turn heel and begin our descent.Luckily a direct slope back into Coire Liath Mhor gave a good fast start to this stage. A lip of rock below made us do a short abseil before traversing back towards our original path.
I realised it had been over 10 years since my last pilgramage to Torridon; this left me with mixed feelings of embarressment but mainly joy at rediscovering the hills I used to know so well. Liathach is 2nd only to Ben Nevis for mainland mountains I have climbed on. It won’t be long before I’m back again.
Jim & I were on the verge of aborting today because of the rain and winds. Returning to base the red Cuillin peaks all around were suddenly clear and highly attractive with a warm cuppa in hand!
2 minutes back down the road we set off past the waterfall with the long snowfields on the North Face of Garbh-bheinn. These turned out to be very fine with crampons needed pretty much from the first patches of snow at 500m. 1000ft and an hour later we’d explored some exciting buttress terrain as well as the easy gully features to reach the summit.
Windows soon appeared through the mist as we descended. Golden light reflected off the sea at Camasunary. Gradually views into the main Cuillin appeared with mists being turned pink by the setting sun behind.
Beautiful calm day today for some Cuillin exploration.
The kids all enjoyed the boulders while waiting for the rest of us to catch up.
I love the light at this time of year with the subtle hues of dawn pretty much blending in with the sunset.
Climbers will be interested in the conditions and potential fun just now; below is my report for UKClimbing. I’ve put a zoomed picture of the top of Sgurr Dearg and the In Pinn immediately below.
“The heavy snows have been stripped out right up to 700m but, above this, serious quantities are still plastering all rocks. With temperatures up to 7 degrees or so yesterday it is very likely to have thawed to the tops and is now solidifying nicely.
Worth an attempt on a Traverse if we can get a settled period of weather but I can’t spot that window myself.
Not much ice visible and all but the steepest mixed lines likely to be swamped. Not sure it is cold enough for the plastered snow to be much use.”
Ben has been dealt more than his fair share of weather for his course but enthusiasm and attitude has given us a couple of excellent days.
Yesterday we avoided the wind down on the beach at the Braes with a refresher session on gear placements and retrieving abseil ropes. We finished with a great bit of fun dry-tooling up a greasy steep corner. With nearly zero friction for the feet it was a fight to the top but great lesson (for both of us!) in trusting thin placements.
This morning winds dropped to gale force instead of storm force so we headed past the Fairy Pools toward the Spur of Sgurr an Fheadian. It looked very dry and unlikely we would need crampons so we gambled instead on heading higher, hoping that the wind gods would be kind.
A tail-wind up the Tairnilear stone shoot was most welcome.
Peace from the wind over the crest of the Ridge was made even better by the subtle colours out towards Blaven and beyond.
Midst of the heavy snow shower
The descent down Fionn Choire was another matter as we were battered from every direction, slapped by walls of spindrift and pelted by hail that felt more like lead shot; strangely no pics;-)
Enjoy the gallery-
Chris and I snatched a Clach Glas crossing between the tropical rains of Tuesday and northern gales of Thursday but not without a fight. A mix of snow and dry rock allowed us to reach the summit without crampons but they were obligatory on the sketchy descent.
Sheltered sunny approach
The pics are a pretty true reflection of the weather, we only got hit by one heavy snow shower on the summit, but don’t do the wind any justice. Unpredictable gusts added spice and watering eyes knocked the concentration; we were certainly glad to be roped the whole way!
Down-climb early on
Summit view north
We happily dropped out of the maelstrom by the screes below the Putting Green and reached the car before darkness and the real storm arrived.
Stars last night created a heady mix of anticipation for great things so Ally and I packed a full rack and ropes. Sadly we woke to a murky warm (7 degrees) morning and fought hard to keep up the enthusiasm. Adopting the “you can’t do it if you’re not there” philosophy is always best though and we got our just desserts.
The sun stayed out for most of this rise and the mists rolled around providing tantalising glimpses of Am Basteir and Pinnacle Ridge.
The only real rain eventually caught up with us but only for about 5 minutes. Payback was a full parting of the mists to reveal the autumn colours beautifully lit by evening sunshine and a pair of eagles rounded off the aesthetics nicely.
For me the first day out in winter is always double-edged; inevitable pain from carrying all the extra metal-work is countered by the thrills and wonderful beauty of our play area. I can confirm, and feel, both sides of the winter sword this evening!
didn’t comment on conditions yet so here goes-
Old snow pack started to go off on Thursday but top 100m of An Dorus rock hard on Fri. Softening again Saturday. Fresh building up on the old snow but reasonably well bonded.
Fresh snow each day added interest to the ridges; quite good quantities actually made far more pleasant than expected with mostly good footings rather than squealing on rocks.
Overall you do need crampons for any of the narrower sections of Ridge for sure. Easier peaks & slopes may be okay just now but beware days following clear sky nights.
Full Traverse looking very improbable for a wee while yet…
Brief selection of recent pics; I’ll label when less busy but you’ll get the idea!
Great snow fun this week; Ann-Marie’s 60th birthday on Gillean, 20 years since we first met, aghhh.
Then Preston & Mark learning to love their crampons & axe over 2 seperate days.